My January 9 column concerning the retirement of former Johnson City School Superintendent, C.E. Rogers, prompted a letter from Ms. Pat Willard, who commented about several of the people mentioned in the article.

“I knew who Mr. Rogers was,” said Ms. Willard, “because his wife was in charge of the nursery school I attended as a young child during World War II. It was for children whose mothers were helping with the war effort by entering the work force. My mom worked at Dosser's Department Store selling yard goods. Every woman in the work force freed a man to go into the military.”

“Mrs. Rogers must have taken a special interest in me. One evening, my parents and I walked from our home in the 300 block of Poplar to the Rogers home on Maple in the block next to the college. They had arranged for me to attend Training School (University School) when I began school in the fall, but my parents left the decision to me. I chose to go to South Side School.”

“I am sure that Miss Nancy Beard of your article was the principal of South Side. There was a story that her favorite song was ‘Let it Snow’.”

Pat mentioned Edith Keyes, the part-time librarian at South Side who only worked in the afternoons around 1946. She encountered her again in the late 1990s as a member of the Monday Club and the Institute of Continuing Learning. Miss Keyes had a reserved parking space at the college. Some mornings when she arrived for work, she would find a car parked in her space. She would return home to Jonesboro (Jonesborough), call the college and tell them that she would be in to work when her parking space became available. Pat acknowledged that this could have been a tall tale.

I noted in my column that Mrs. Orville Martin was my occupations teacher in Junior High School. Pat also had her for the same subject. When she turned in a career book to her teacher, Mrs. Martin refused to let her be an architect or a dog breeder in the course, instead urging her to choose nursing. She complied and passed the class.

When Ms. Willard was in her senior year at Science Hill High School, her mother urged her to pursue civil engineering as a career. No one supported or objected to her decision. During the last semester of her senior year, she exchanged typing for mechanical drawing. The principal, George Greenwell, approved her taking the class, making her the only girl in the class. Mrs. Martin learned of her decision and sent word how proud she was of her. Pat studied civil engineering in college.

Ms. Willard mentioned Elise Lindsey whom she believed resided in the 100 block of West Poplar. Her father ran a gas station on South Roan. Pat believed that she likely taught at Columbus Powell.

Pat identified Margaret Woodruff as an elementary school principal. She surmised that she held the position at Stratton Elementary School on Oakland Avenue. She was also one of the three daughters of J.D. and M. E. Woodruff who built a house in the tree streets section of Johnson City in 1906. Mr. Woodruff was a timber agent. She noted that the house was still unpainted with natural chestnut woodwork in most of its many rooms. The family reared eight children in that house before Mrs. Woodruff, a widow by then, sold the property to Pat’s father in l951. The family moved to a large red brick house in the 200 block of Locust Street.

Although Pat did not know School Superintendent C. Howard McCorkle, she knew who he was. She remembered Mrs. Starrett as a very stately woman who taught music in the area.

Pat concluded by saying, “You mentioned others whose names are familiar to me but about whom I have no definite memories. This was great fun. This was a nice little walk down memory lane.” 

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Today’s column is about former Johnson City School Superintendent C.E. Rogers. I don’t remember him because he left the position three years before I entered the first grade. My article also mentions a host of teachers and principals, some of whom I had in school. I am hopeful my readers will find a relative or friend listed.

On June 30, 1946, Rogers left the important education position after a 30-year career to accept administrative duties with several Johnson City and Elizabethton business colleges that included Steed College. In his early years, he was briefly affiliated with East Tennessee State College.

The City Teachers Association honored him and his wife with a reception in the gymnasium of Science Hill High School on Roan Street. The guest list comprised 200 names. In the receiving line were Miss Lottie Price, president of the association; the superintendent and Mrs. Rogers; Mrs. Orville Martin (my occupations teacher at Junior High School); Miss Nancy Beard and George Greenwell (my Science Hill High School principal).

Decorations for the affair consisted of spring flowers with yellow tulips and predominating purple irises. The Science Hill orchestra, under the direction of Warren F. Weddle, furnished a musical background for the evening.

As a token of appreciation to Mr. Rogers for almost two decades of dedicated service as superintendent of Johnson City schools, the teachers presented him with a nice piece of luggage. Refreshments were served from a photograph table covered with lace and decorated with flowers and yellow candles. Presiding at the punch bowl were Nelle VanGorder and Margaret Fain. The refreshment committee included Hattie Hunt, Elise Lindsey and Alma Barnes.

Teachers who assisted serving were Margaret King (my third grade teacher at Henry Johnson School), Eva Grigsby, Edith Keyes, Edna Mackey, Margaret Woodruff, Elizabeth Jones, June O’Dell, Mary Agnes Donnelly, Ruth Martin, Mildred Adams, Edith Bray, Fannie Taylor (my fourth grade teacher at Henry Johnson School), Josephine Moore, Dorothy Mingis, Frances Wildasin and Rosalie Link.

Assisting in entertaining were Marjorie Hunt, Thelma Walker, Helen McLeod, Margaret Crouch (my principal at Henry Johnson School) and Mrs. Kathryn Corpening.

On the decorations committee were Nancy Beard, Lenore Anderson, Dorothy Thomas, Levinia Bowers, Carrie Lou Yoakley, Pauline Peoples, Mabel Anderson, Harry Freeman, Coy Trivett, Ruth McAnally, W.Z. Harshbarger and George Greenwell (my principal at SHHS).

The committee selecting the gift for Mr. Rogers was composed of Helen McLeod; Gordon Grubb (my sixth grade co-teacher at Henry Johnson School); and George Greenwell, who made the presentation. Guests were the honorees, present members of the board of education, members who had served during Mr. Rogers’ tenure of office, city commissioners, presidents of PTAs, teachers and husbands and wives of members.

Board members, both past and present, who were listed  on the guest list included H.E. Miller; W.B. Miller; Dr. John Lamb; James A. Pouder; H.M. Burleson; J.H. Preas; J.E. Brading; S.D. Jackson; Harry Range; Frank Taylor; J.M. Masengill; Walter Martin; Paul Jones; John Anderson; D.R. Beeson; George Oldham; Carl Jones, Jr.; Mrs. L.D. Gump; Mrs. J.A. Summers; Mrs. J.E. Crouch; Mrs. William Dubbs; Mrs W.A. Starrett; and Mrs. H.C. Black.

Left to right: C.E. Rogers, John H. Arrants (who replaced Mr. Rogers as superintendent) and C. Howard McCorkle (who replaced Arrants). I remember Mr. Arrants from my younger school years and Mr. McCorkle from my later ones.. 

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Science Hill High School, once located downtown on “The Hill” at Roan and Water streets, opened its 1922-23 school year with plans to establish several “modern methods.” The director of the project was Miss Lucy Hatcher, the principal.

(Science Hill circa 1922 and Miss Lucy Thatcher, principal of the school that year.)

The changes were aimed at keeping the school “up to date” and promoting increased student interest in their schoolwork. Funding was achieved by scheduling radio concerts in the evenings at the school auditorium and from proceeds from the senior class’s moneymaking activities.

Daily instructional sessions began at the school at 2 p.m. thereby reducing the students’ lunch breaks to 20 minutes. Specifics of the meetings were not disclosed.

The cafeteria was supplied with an assortment of groceries and additional equipment that was deemed necessary for the cooking and serving of well-balanced lunches. Miss Edith Basket, domestic science teacher, was put in charge of the cafeteria and was challenged with buying quality food at the best prices obtainable to feed nearly 400 students.

The first Monday’s menu after the school opened that year consisted of four different selections of sandwiches, milk and lemonade, bananas and chocolate candy. The dining room was spruced up with a set of fumed oak furniture, a new set of silverware and new linen for use in home economics for teaching girls how to properly serve dinners.

Miss Hatcher installed a “radio outfit” in the study hall for the entertainment of students. A large Victorola phonograph and a set of records were also purchased for teaching American and English literature.

Students began publishing a high quality monthly magazine, known as The Wataugan. The last edition for the school year became the annual, also known as The Wataugan.

The Rotary Club provided a model for the best lecture during the coming year at an oratorical contest sponsored by the high school. This subject was regarded as one of the most important ones in the high school, as evidenced by the fact that a delegation of students had been sent each year for the previous 10 years to the grand contest at Emory and Henry College. They won the prestigious grand metal several times.

Shrubbery was planted around the high school and grounds that year. Miss Hatcher made over $60 selling books that were donated by students who left the high school the previous year. The money was used for miscellaneous needs of the school.

Miss Hatcher was a unique administrator. She maintained absolute control over her students with very little effort. When the situation required it, she could reverse her friendly but firm demeanor with piercing and icy eyes that often rained sarcasm down on her unfortunate student victim. 

On one humorous occasion in 1920, the senior class decided to liven things up at school by scheduling a secret “Tacky Day,” which meant wearing the oldest, gaudiest and most mismatched clothing they could locate. When the day arrived, students sheepishly congregated at the foot of the steps. Before they could ascend the 88 steps to the school, their stern and visibly upset principal confronted them and immediately expelled them.

Hatcher was infuriated because the students, deliberately or otherwise, chose the very day that William Jennings Bryan was to visit Johnson City and the high school. The distinctively different assemblage was reluctant to go home so they remained on the school steps. When Mr. Bryan arrived, the surprised popular politician was surprised about their attire. The quick thinking principal explained that they were a group of country folks hanging around to get a glimpse of the famous politician.    

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As a commuting pre-engineering student at East Tennessee State College/University in the early 1960s, I found the school library to be a convenient haven for study between classes. A half century later, I now visit the beautiful and well-stocked Charles C. Sherrod Library that opened in 1998 to research local history.

The school opened in 1911 as a normal school, became a teachers college in 1925 and was elevated to university status in 1963. The first school library was situated in the administration building, a 40-room, three-story modern brick and marble structure that included space for offices, a laboratory, recitation rooms, society halls and an auditorium. The library occupied one of the larger rooms. There was no permanent librarian per se; instead, the individual in charge was designated as teacher-librarian.

By spring 1912, the library, which used the Dewey Decimal System, contained about 1200 volumes and a collection of books pertaining to science, agriculture, industrial arts, education, history and literature. From its beginning, the number of volumes increased rapidly, eventually outgrowing its space. In 1914, the college hired a full-time librarian, Miss Olive Taylor, who utilized student help as needed.

During 1922, the library was moved to a separate building on campus, prompting officials to cleverly excuse students from classes that week to transport books to pre-labeled shelves in the new facility. Shortly thereafter, a second person, Miss Florence Wilkie, was hired as a cataloguer. Soon, the library had expanded to more then 15,000 books, 200 periodicals and a sizable assortment of newspapers.

In May 1931, students eagerly awaited the opening of its third library that was to be a decided improvement over the existing one. Construction began early that year and was completed by early summer.

The new building was modern and a bit unusual compared to the previous ones. It had the usual stack rooms: work and receiving rooms, rooms for conferences, rooms for cataloguing, seminar halls, library science, children’s library, rooms for reserve books, a periodical room and offices for staff headquarters. The reading area was on one floor and measured 119’ long, 32’ wide and 50’ high. A 36’ extension brought the total length to 155’. Just above this room on the second floor was a large room, which was designated for a museum. It measured 121’ long, 36’ wide and had an arched ceiling 12’ on the side and running up considerably higher in the center. It too was beautifully lighted, having 21 windows. The school already had a rare collection of mostly East Tennessee historical relics making it apparent that this area would become one of the most interesting and outstanding features of anything on campus.

The new library contained a large fireproof vault, a number of spacious classrooms and a librarian’s office with telephone connection to various parts of the building. There was also a small assembly room for various activities.

The beautiful new library was deemed to be a living memorial to Dr. C.C. Sherrod, the school’s beloved president who spent much time visiting library buildings on other campuses and working closely with the architects before the final plan was approved. 

The building itself was incombustible, being of concrete, brick and stone structure with matching fumed oak finish furniture. The floors were terrazzo and concrete overlaid with rubber tile and battleship linoleum, making it essentially noise proof. There was shelving space for 130,000 volumes with meeting space to accommodate 300 students. The cost of the building was approximately $150,000.

Through the efficient and untiring efforts of the two librarians and the ever-progressive president, the library became the outstanding feature on campus for aiding knowledge-seeking students on a journey to a higher and better education. 

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I attended East Tennessee State University between 1961 when I graduated from Science Hill High School until 1964 when I transferred to the University of Tennessee. It was during this time that the college officially became a university. I remember coming to campus early one morning and seeing that the large letters painted on the two powerhouse smokestacks had been changed from “ETSC” to “ETSU” (as noted in my column photo from the 1963 and 1964 annuals).

In 1909, Johnson City was awarded one of the three Normal Schools to be built in East, Middle and West Tennessee. It bore the name East Tennessee Normal School until 1925 when it became a college and was renamed the East Tennessee State Teachers College.  

According to a February 1915 edition of The Comet, East Tennessee State Normal School issued a document titled “Bulletin #2,” an eight-page pamphlet prepared in the form of questions and answers. The headings were “What the Normal School Has,” “How the School Got Its Resources,” “What the School Needs,” “Terms of Admission,” “Administration,” “Courses and Certificates,” “Expenses and Accommodations,” “Spring Term 1915,” “Summer Term 1915” and “Twenty-Five Reasons Why the Teachers Should Attend the Normal School.”

Under the heading, “What the School Needs,” the most pressing needs were given as a dormitory for men, additional dormitory for women, agriculture and industrial arts building, larger faculty, library and physical training building.

The article stated that nearly every graduate of the Normal School was working in the country public schools of East Tennessee. Adding better-trained teachers to impart higher quality education to the students of the State of Tennessee was the fundamental reason that the school was built.

Among the 25 answers given to the question, “Why Should You Attend the East Tennessee State Normal School,” are the following:

“Because it is in the closest touch with the educational system in East Tennessee, is intimately acquainted with the needs of the public schools and is seeking in every way to meet them.”

“Because no other school in East Tennessee offers educational advantages comparable to those of the Normal School at the same cost.”

“Because the school is unable to supply with its graduates the demands made upon it for teachers.”

“Because new classes are organized each term to suit the needs of new students.”

“Because the school stands for better schoolhouses, better teaching, modern courses of study, better health, better homes and better living for East Tennessee and for the State.” 

The Bulletin further showed that total resources of the Normal School on January 1, 1915 amounted to $286,000, of which the Honorable George L. Carter of Johnson City contributed $200,000. Each year since the establishment of the State Normal School, an extension week relating to agricultural and industrial subjects was observed on campus. This course brought together not only students and faculty of the Normal School, but many citizens from outside the institution of learning.

Annual external courses for the year were scheduled each afternoon at 1:10 from February 23 to February 27 in the school auditorium. All regular afternoon classes were dismissed to give the opportunity for all teachers to be present.  

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A 1909 newspaper clipping speaks of a “serene section of East Tennessee lying beyond the Watauga River near the base of the loftiest mountains east of the Rockies.” The article states that no purer air or more lovely scenery could be found than the local region affords. It b ecame immortalized after Bob Taylor expressed it in his writing and speeches as “Happy Valley.”

At the entrance to the valley, about a mile from Senator Taylor’s birthplace and only a stone’s throw from the present home of Alf Taylor, his brother and political competitor, stood Milligan College. It was the Alma Mater of both Bob and Alf and scores of other men who achieved future prominence.

Milligan College Young Ladies Home 

Surrounded by a thick grove of maple trees, the old campus seemed to fit in naturally as an integral part of the landscape. Nature was observed here at its finest with Milligan College as its favorite shrine. According to the school’s early catalogue, Milligan was devoted to character building as its number one priority. No better place for such an institution could be found than in the healthy environment of Happy Valley.

Around the turn of the century, student enrollment was averaging from 175 to 250 students for the school year. In 1909, 213 students signed up for classes bringing expectations that the number could total 250 to 300 classmates by year-end. Immediate concerns were housing. A new brick dormitory, completed in 1908, became filled with students, prompting school officials to petition the board of trustees for more housing.

In 1881, the founding school, known as the Buffalo Male and Female Institute, was elevated to collegiate level through the efforts of Dr. Josephus Hopwood and renamed Milligan College after a favorite former teacher of his.

Prior to the Civil War, educational needs between the North and the South differed greatly. In the majority of the Northern States, social rank did not exist; settlers lived together in small farms clustered within a village. Each village eventually acquired a school.

In the South, the manner of living was substantially different. Each landowner had a sizable tract of land causing neighbors to be located miles apart. Often, it took one property-owner the better part of a day on horseback to reach the dwelling of another. Thus the country had no clustered towns like the North. There were many plantations stretched over a sparsely settled area of country. It was impossible for the South to have “town schools” as they were known in New England.

The Civil War did much to rearrange social conditions. The breaking up of the large plantations into many smaller homes, the freeing of slaves and passage of compulsory education laws created an efficient network of public schools. The natural noble pride of the South led to the establishment of a large number of private schools such as Milligan, many of which became phenomenally successful.

In. 1909, a general education law was passed that provided 25% of the gross state revenue to be devoted to the cause of education. Milligan was one of 19 state colleges that became recipients of proceeds:

University of Nashville (1785), The University of Tennessee (1794, Knoxville), Washington and Tusculum College (1794, Greenville), Maryville College (1819, Maryville), Cumberland University (1842, Lebanon), Burritt College (1848, Spencer), Hiwassee College (1849, Sweetwater), Bethel College (1850, Mackenzie), Carson and Newman College (1851, Jefferson City), Walden University (1866, Nashville), Fisk University (1866, Nashville), University of Chattanooga (1867, Chattanooga), University of the South (1868, Sewanee), King College (1869, Bristol), Christian Brothers College (1871, Memphis), Knoxville College (1875, Knoxville), Milligan College (1881, Milligan), Southwestern Presbyterian College (1885, Clarksville) and Lincoln Memorial University (1895, Cumberland Gap/ Harrogate). 

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In 1954-55, Miss Sophia Boring was my sixth grade teacher at Henry Johnson School on W. Market Street across from Kiwanis Park. This pretty lady had taught there since 1936, after previously being employed at Columbus Powell School.

Our room was on the second floor in the southwest corner of the school overlooking the playground, Miller and Keezel Garage and the Pepsi Cola Plant. One of the first lessons our teacher taught us was to never call her by her first name. One student deviously tested her sincerity and reaped the consequences.

Subjects that year included reading, writing, spelling, English, geography, history, arithmetic, health, physical education, art, music and duty. Miss Gordon Grubbs, the other sixth grade teacher, taught us geography. John Manning, the city’s elementary school physical education director, visited the school on Fridays to work with the boys.

Sophia (oops, Miss Boring) possessed a special talent for reading stories to her students. She was anything but boring. She read and even performed portions of Homer's “Iliad” and “Odyssey” for the class. She was not opposed to standing on her desk for added dramatization. I can still picture in my mind the massive Trojan horse that she word painted for us. She received her training from Science Hill High School’s Dramatic Club in 1927. She also wrote a school play each year, but that is another story.

Weekly Readers were distributed to students at no charge. They were popular juvenile newspapers that contained stories as well as national news, written in a style fitting for six graders. Once a month, a “Classic's Illustrated” comic books was also handed out to students who could afford the 15 cent charge. 

In those days, we did not have ballpoint pens. Instead, we used fountain pens that had to be filled with ink. Miss Boring had a cabinet along the back of the room with one shelf dedicated for students’ inkbottles. We identified our bottle by scratching our last name on the cap. To fill a pen, you placed the tip of it into the ink and simultaneously pulled a small lever on the side. This created a vacuum, causing ink to flow into the chamber. We filled our pens each morning before class, which usually lasted us all day.

Our classroom had slate blackboards along the north and east sides. Within a few years, green boards began replacing black ones, but the newer ones did not seem natural to us. We still referred to them as blackboards.

Assigned daily duties, which were graded, included carrying out trash, dusting erasers, sweeping the floor and washing blackboards. A fundamental rule was to erase the boards thoroughly before washing them to prevent streaking. We took the erasers to a designated outside door on the west side of the school for cleaning, which consisted of beating two of them together. We were strictly forbidden to strike an eraser against the steps or side of the building. About half way into the year, the school purchased an electric eraser, which was actually a small vacuum cleaner. It was kept in the back of the cafeteria for all classes to use. It was especially loud. 

After I graduated from the sixth grade, I did not see Miss Boring again until 1967 when I learned that she lived on Highland Avenue. I just had to see her. I shared several memories with her from that era, but sadly she was unable to recall any of them. When I bragged on her wonderful teaching skills and story telling ability, she seemed pleased. I concluded the visit and departed happy that I had seen my former teacher. She passed away shortly thereafter. She stands tall as one of my better schoolteachers.

Miss Boring (upper left inset) probably took the column photo showing her 32 students posing on the upper set of front steps of the school. The photo was her 1927 Sciience Hill High School graduation picture.

Classmates that I can identify are (left to right):

Front: 1. Carolyn Patrick, 2. Joan Curtis, 3. Tonda Nave, 4. Jean Senter, 5. ?, 6. Janice Blevins, 7. Dorothy Greene, 8. Robert Cox, 9. Charles Willingham, 10. Frankie Lewis.

Middle: 11. ?, 12. Brenda Lady, 13. ?, 14. ?, 15. Janie Buchanan, 16. ?, 17. Nanci Biddix, 18. ?, 19. ?, 20. Allen Davis, 21. Jimmy Laughren, 22. Bill Durham.

Back: 23. Johnny McKenzie, 24. Ralph Miller, 25. Wyndham Frye, 26. Edward Johnson, 27. Harold Tyree, 28. Leonard Smith, 29. Stanley Bishop, 30. Kyle Bulla, 31. Larry Hodges and 32. Eddie McKinney.

If anyone can supply the missing names, drop me a note for inclusion on the History/Heritage page.  

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Kathleen Hall, librarian at Science Hill High School, shared with me a copy of the school’s first annual, a May 1905 publication known as The Echo (Vol. 1, No. 1).

The Editor-in-Chief was Fred King. Assistant Editors were Emma Hatcher, Fra Matson, Lucy Sitton, Arthur Weaver and Ralph Preas. The Committee on Advertisements included Swannie Robinson and Roma Eiseman.

The smallish 58-page softbound slick paper publication was quite different from annuals today with more of an academic emphasis on a variety of subjects as opposed to a social focus on student activities, news, clubs and sports.

Several editorial comments were featured. “There is no reason why (the school) should be in the rear,” said one. “Other schools publish a paper of some kind and we are determined not to be outdone, hence this effort.” … “In January, the building was slightly damaged by fire. Since then, a fire escape has been added. This will prove indispensable in case of fire if we may judge by the excitement prevalent at the last alarm.” … “This issue of the Echo has been very much delayed on account of the recent fire destroying all our photographs. Next year we promise to have it out on time if not burnt out again.”

One student, Cecil B. Donnelly, offered a brief history of the class of 1905, noting that it was comprised of eight students: Leonidas W. McCown (president), Fred King (vice-president), Maude Beasley (secretary-treasurer), Claire Fulton, Walter Faw Broyles, Ella Russell, Una V. Templin and himself.

Most of the class members were products of Johnson City schools through the tenth grade. The teachers mentioned were Rhoda Campbell, Clara Cloyd, Sue Wood, Laura King, Mattie Bullock, Mary Brown, Ina Yoakley, Willie Reeves and Kate Simpson, W.P. Crouch and John H. Pence.

The school colors were olive and white. The class pin was a wreath surrounding a scroll upon which were carved the letters, “J.C.H.S.” “Non Summas, sed Adscendens” was the motto chosen by those in harmony with the ambition and lofty ideals of the members of the class who were about to embark upon the “storm-tossed sea of life.”

Under a section titled, “Class Prophecy,” Maude Leo Beasley came into possession of a device known as a Mysterioscope that recorded with unerring accuracy the things of the future. Pressing the Telegnostikon key on the instrument revealed what the future held for her classmates. She commented on a few of them.

E.C. Reeves wrote a short essay giving the school’s history, which he stated opened its doors about 45-years ago (1869). The school first organized at Oak Grove as a debating society, located “about two and one-half miles from Johnson City.” Membership included J.M. Carr, H.H. Carr, William Taylor, I.E. Reeves, J.D. Reeves, R.H. Reeves and E.C. Reeves. One year later, the group transferred to Brush Creek Campground, “near where now stands the brick tobacco warehouse west of the city.”

Later, Tipton Jobe donated land for a new school on a downtown hill that was referred to as Science Hill. The new facility was appropriately tagged Science Hill Male and Female Institute. For a time, it served the dual role of school and place of worship for area churches. Eventually, the congregations built their own sanctuaries, leaving the brick structure on the hill solely for education. “The work of the small debating society,” said Reeves, “now almost forgotten, had been as bread cast upon the waters.”

J.E. Brading penned a section that lobbied for a new high school to abate over-crowding and allow a more favorable 30 students per teacher ratio. The Board of Education asked the City Council to erect a new high school.

Next, J.F. Templin provided a short history of two area grammar schools, Columbus Powell and Martha Wilder.

A clever five-verse anonymous poem titled, “His Compensation,” dealt with a student being “kep’ in” after school for detention hall for a variety of school infractions. The last two stanzas humorously read, “I’m kep’ in ef I whisper, An’ I’m kep’ in ef I chaw, The piece of gum I’ve borried, An’ am warmin’ my jaw. The truth is ‘at I’m kep’ in, Most everything I do, But one jolly thing about it, Is the teacher’s kep’ in too.”

Swannie Robinson composed a treatise that dealt with her climbing a hill and noting how the sky dramatically changed as she ascended from “sky blue” to yellow, orange and red as if the very heavens themselves were on fire. Other brief essays were “Mildred’s Heroism, (person not identified)” “How Jim Fooled the Boys” (Arthur Weaver) and “A Mountain Trip” (Oran Ward).

The annual contained a sketch of the Tennessee state flag that on April 17, 1905 was adopted as the official state flag. LeRoy Reeves, an 1894 alumnus of Johnson City High School, who at the time was a lawyer and captain of Johnson City’s National Guard, designed it. The significance of the stars, circle and colors was explained.

Included in The Echo was a list of graduates from 1894 to 1904, including an update of their whereabouts and careers in 1905. One name listed was Regina Eiseman who was educated at Virginia Institute and later became principal of Junior High School.

Another entry was a facsimile program for the “Seventh Anniversary; Science Hill Literary Society; Johnson City, Tennessee; Saturday Night; September 21, 1872; 7 O’clock, P.M.” A printed agenda was distributed to attendees: Prayer, Song by the Choir, Address by the President (H.H. Carr), Oration: Eulogy on Columbus (W.M. Boring), Declamation: The Women of the South (F.H. Berry), Debate: Should Capital Punishment be Abolished? (W.P. Rankin, J.C. King, A.B. Bowman and E.F. Akard), Song, Annual Address (J.M. Johnson) and Benediction.

The annual concluded with 21 business ads: I.M. Beckner; Kirkpatrick, Williams & Bowman; H.W. Pardue; Johnson City Traction Co.; Watauga Electric Company; J.M. Buck Lumber Co.; Frank Taylor; City Drug Co.; The Bee Hive; G.H. Shoun & Co.; Summers-Parrott Hardware Co.; Johnson City Bottling Works; Dulaney-Bailey Co.; Hart and Houston Store; Gump Brothers; Brading & Marshall; J.W. Cass; Wofford Brothers Insurance; D.A. Vines; Unaka National Bank; and Biddle and Ellsworth. 

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I acquired a May 24, 1940 edition of “Junior High News – Graduation Edition,” a 12-page student publication chocked full of names and facts. The item is in the Pat Watson (once owned Pat’s Trading Post) collection of the Archives of Appalachia. 

The newspaper staff consisted of Anna Marie Irish, Editor-in-Chief; Mary Ellen Gregg, News Editor; Dorothy Lynn Brown, Club Editor; Herschal Ottinger, Art Editor; Hoyle Chancellor, Boys Sports Editor; Marjorie Brumit, Girls Sports Editor; and Frank Martin, Business Manager.

The headline announced that 225 students were graduating from Junior High School, as being the largest class in the history of the school since its beginning in 1922. The periodical further stated that the second largest class had graduated the previous year when 200 students received diplomas. The commencement theme was titled, “And They Shall Read,” depicting 500 years of printing and its effect on history.

The annual Honor Banquet was scheduled for the following Friday evening at 6 o’clock in the school cafeteria for 250 specially invited guests. The invitees were students earning letters from the school, members of the Junior High P.T.A and faculty.

A popular feature of the paper was the joke page depicting funny stories that fictitiously occurred between students and teachers. For instance: A teacher by the name of Helen Jones, after being annoyed by a student’s constant interruptions during class said, “Frank Martin, are you teaching this class?” His response was “No madam.” The teacher followed with “Then don’t talk like an idiot.”

The graduating class presented a lively comedy, “Apple Blossom Time,” on Friday evening, May 3 at 7:45 with a capacity crowd filling the massive 1000-seat auditorium. A calendar showed the final events for May: “9A Play, May 3; Letter Awards in Assembly, May 23; Honor Banquet, May 24, 6 p.m.; Class Work Closes, May 27, 11:30 a.m.; Reorganization for Fall Term and Receive Report Cards, May 28, 8:30 a.m.; and Promotion Exercises with Exhibits from Various Departments, May 28, 2:30 p.m. The calendar indicated that school would begin again on Sept. 3, 1940.

One section in the paper was similar to superlatives found in high school annuals, each one containing a different letter of the alphabet: Athletic, Baritone, Cute, Dumb, Earnest, Flirt, Gardner, Hopeful, Inquisitive, Jealous, Kissable, Little, Meddler, Nimble, Odd, Pest, Quiet, Restless, Saucy, Tumbler, Useless, Vacant, Whimsical, X (indicating unknown quantity), Yawners and Zestful. One or two students were listed under each category.

Miss Mary Nelle Givens, 9A student, won the title of Milk Queen in a contest sponsored by the Johnson City Milk Producers Association by defeating a representative from Science Hill. The margin was 3000 votes. The school was awarded $50 as first prize, the money being used to purchase new library books. Mary Nelle won $10 and a free pass to the Majestic Theatre for a month. She was also chosen as the school’s most popular girl in a run-off contest with three other contestants – Betty Asquith, Anna Marie Irish and Rosemary Murray.

The publication concluded with several students commenting on the teachers they would soon be leaving behind at Junior High and beginning their daily trek up 88 steps to Science Hill High School. The list included Mr. McCorkle, Miss Bradshaw, Miss Candler, Miss Archer, Miss Hart, Miss Taylor, Miss Whitehead, Mr. Oakes, Mr. Boyd, Mr. Hall, Mr. Dyer, Miss Jeffries, Miss Mathes, Miss Barnes, Miss Van Gorder and Mr. Sherrod.   

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The Sunday, July 3, 1921 Johnson City Chronicle identified a Samuel DeBusk as being the founder of Science Hill High School when it opened on Aug. 24, 1868. While I have heard of this person, I never associated him in the context of their being the founder of my high school. 

The population of Johnson City in 1871 at the time of the first graduation was scarcely 400 inhabitants. Main Street was an open field playground and Roan Street was nowhere to be found. The surrounding landscape along Watauga and Unaka avenues as well as Southwest Addition were densely wooded areas without so much as a hint of a road.

The little village that would grow up to become the imposing city that we know today was centered on Market Street at the location of the railroad tracks on Fountain Square. It was at this same locale that city founder, Henry Johnson, built his first house, store and train depot.

According to the Chronicle, at that moment in history, Rev. Samuel W.J. DeBusk, a Methodist minister and graduate of Emory and Henry College, came here and with the help and support of Thomas A. Faw, Tipton Jobe and a few other leading citizens of the time reportedly founded Science Hill High School. The modest facility eventually became the mother of Johnson City’s educational institution.

Facts concerning the early clergyman come from Judge James W. Crumley who provided the Chronicle with the story and an 1871 graduating exercises program. I wrote a “Yesteryear” column detailing that document on 9-29-2008. The program makes no mention of Rev. DeBusk.

According to Crumley, the preacher, a quiet and unassuming lad with a great ambition for education, was the son of a poor family from southwest Virginia. His desire to enroll at Emory and Henry College was clouded by financial impossibility. However, through the guiding of his mother, he enrolled at the school. During his enrollment there, his mother was always in the shadows assisting her son by carrying food to him three times a week and giving him the few pennies that she had saved.

Upon completion of his college studies, DeBusk had achieved a superior scholastic record, but he lacked enough money to pay his diploma fee. He addressed the dilemma by entering an oratory contest and won top prize, which included the Robinson Prize metal. This allowed him to pay his debt with the school.

At E&H, it was customary for the victor to publicly hang the medal about the neck of his sweetheart. When DeBusk won, the crowd exploded with applause but became quiet when the prized medal was placed in his hand. Everyone wondered which fortunate lady would be chosen as the recipient. He walked down the platform to the rear of the room where he singled out a plain looking countrywoman with a checked sunbonnet tied to her arm. Taking the woman by the hand, he drew her to her feet, and proudly hung the gold emblem of distinction around her neck. His sweetheart fittingly was his hard-working mother. 

Later, DeBusk brought his mother with him to Johnson City where she became a teacher in the lower grades of his school. He also brought his brother-in-law, Wylie W Smith, and brother, William, with him. They attended Science Hill and later graduated from Emory and Henry College. In time, DeBusk married a Smith lady from Southwest Virginia.

If anyone can provide additional information to authenticate or refute the Chronicle’s claim that Samuel DeBusk was the founder of SHHS, I would like to hear from you. 

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